Picking pecks of peppers? Here are 4 ways to enjoy them.

A staple of the typical vegetable garden, bell peppers come in a wide variety of colors, sizes and heat. And this thick-skinned vegetable is surprisingly versatile. These recipes are designed to make your life easy while enabling you to enjoy the fresh bounty of the garden.

Old-Fashioned Rice-Stuffed Peppers
1 pound ground beef
1/2 cup uncooked long grain white rice
1 cup water
6 green bell peppers
2 (8 ounce) cans tomato sauce (or 2 cups homemade)
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
salt and pepper to taste
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
2. Place the rice and water in a saucepan, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and cook 20 minutes.
3. In a skillet over medium heat, cook the beef until evenly browned.
4. Remove and discard the tops, seeds, and membranes of the bell peppers. Arrange peppers in a baking dish with the hollowed sides facing upward. (Slice the bottoms of the peppers if necessary so that they will stand upright.)
5. In a medium mixing bowl, stir together the browned beef, cooked rice, 1 can tomato sauce, Worcestershire sauce, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, and pepper. Spoon the mixture into each hollowed pepper. Mix the remaining tomato sauce and Italian seasoning in a small bowl, and pour over the stuffed peppers.
6. Bake 1 hour in the preheated oven, basting with sauce every 15 minutes, until peppers are tender.

Three Peppers Salad
Similar to a coleslaw, this is a great picnic side dish. Wow everyone at your Labor Day cookout!

3 medium red, yellow, orange, and /or green sweet peppers, sliced into thin strips
1 cup shredded cabbage
1/4 cup currants or raisins
2 green onions, sliced
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
3 tablespoons salad oil
2 to 3 tablespoons sugar
Hot pepper sauce to taste (optional)

1. In a large mixing bowl, combine sweet peppers, cabbage, currants or raisins, and green onions.
2. In a screw-top lidded jar, combine the vinegar, oil, sugar, and hot pepper sauce (if desired). Screw the lid on tight and shake well.
3. Pour the dressing over the pepper mixture and toss gently to coat.
4. Cover and chill for 2 to 24 hours. Stir just before serving. Serves 4.

Slow Cooker Italian Sausage and Peppers
Busy schedules? Slow cooker suppers are easy and so yummy.

2 pounds Italian link sausage, browned
1 jar spaghetti sauce
1 large green bell pepper, sliced into thick strips
1 medium white onion, sliced
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano

Place all ingredients in slow cooker and cook on low for 4 hours. Serve in hard crusty rolls or hoagie rolls. Just like the county fair!

Easy, Elegant Creamy Pepper Soup
This recipe is from Fine Cooking Magazine. This spicy, creamy soup is the perfect starter for a dinner party. Use red, yellow, or orange bell peppers to create this creamy soup. Make ahead or freeze for later.

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
4 large bell peppers (2 pounds), stem, ribs and seeds removed and discarded; flesh diced*
1 medium Yukon Gold potato (8 ounces), diced
1 small onion, roughly chopped (to yield 1 cup)
1/2 teaspoon salt; more to taste
Generous pinch red pepper flakes
1 1/2 cups simmering vegetable or chicken stock; more if needed
Sour cream or crème fraiche for garnish
4 small sprigs fresh dill weed

* Red bell peppers will give the brightest color, but yellow or orange ones are just as delicious. I do not recommend using green bell peppers.

1. In a cast-iron Dutch oven or a heavy stockpot, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the peppers, potato, onion, salt, and red pepper flakes. Cook, stirring, for 1 to 2 minutes. Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are tender, about 1 hour. Remove from heat.

2. Transfer to a blender or food processor and puree in batches, or puree thoroughly with a hand immersion blender. Force the pulp through a coarse sieve or a food mill. Transfer to a saucepan and stir in the vegetable or chicken stock, adding a bit more if you like a thinner soup. Taste and adjust the seasonings.

3. Serve warm or cold, garnished with a dab of sour cream or crème fraiche and a sprig of dill. Makes 4 servings (about 5 cups).

About Dori Fritzinger

I live and work with my multi-generational family in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in North Carolina. We have a farm of cows and calves, wool sheep, dairy goats, rabbits, ducks, geese, chickens, honey bees, a horse and a donkey. We have a goat's milk soap and bath products line available on our farm web site. I enjoy reading, quilting and doing embroidery.